Chinese Glory

By His Grace Bishop Joseph of Arianzos

The flowers that breathe out the untold fragrance,
new stars of the intelligent firmament
who illumine the hearts of the faithful.
The great boast of China Asia's Ornament
decoration and brightness
and the first sacrifice to the Lord,
entreat Him to grant to our souls,
great mercy.


11th June. A day of celebration for the faithful. A day for honouring the icon of the Theotokos (Axion Esti), who from the holy synthronon of the Protaton of the Holy Mountain, sends her grace to the wide world and sweetens the souls of the Orthodox. She comforts those in pain, gives support to those who suffer and makes the pious joyful.

11th June 1900. A day of ruthless persecution of the few-in-number Christians of vast China. A day of wrath, fire and tremors. The revolutionary Boxers turned their anger especially against the 70 all in all Orthodox and struck with fury the "small flock of Christ".

Perhaps they had many complaints against the foreigners and their 'mission', which were not always exempt from worldly ambition and expediencies. However, the small Orthodox Church of China, a sacred offspring of the Russian Missionary flame of older times, had very easily in its existence shown and proved that its concern and duty was exclusively to evangelise and spread the Kingdom of God during a period of about 250 years. Its concern and duty was not the 'religious' support of the political and other vain and sinful expediencies. Therefore, if others afforded a pretext for suspicions and complaints, the Orthodox preached Christ Crucified and nothing else.

In the millions of Buddhists, Confucians and Taoists, the Orthodox presence was 'a drop in the ocean'. However, this drop was unbearably annoying the Boxers and they did not tolerate it to act as a medicine, to the eyes of their souls, to clear their spiritual vision so that they could see the light of the true knowledge of God. So, they were determined to die for it; by the fire of persecution; by the frightful wind of violence; by every possible manner.

Almost all the Churches were set on fire. The Missionary Centre of Peking (today's Beijing), its invaluable library, its printing press, everything was in flames. Whatever the humble missionary endeavour managed to create was turned into ruins and ashes.

One of their first victims was the reverend priest Metrophanes Tsi. "I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered" (Matthew 26:31). His eight-year-old son, John, who was inexperienced in evil, suffered together with the priest. They mutilated him without pity.

-Do you deny your faith in Christ?
-Do you worship Budda?
-God forbid.

They cut him in pieces. While he was dying some felt sorry for him and tried to show him some humaneness. When they asked him if he suffered a lot, the holy child martyr whispered with an angelic smile.

-It is not hard to suffer for Christ!

Then he closed his innocent eyes to the barbarism of the earth to open them in the Kingdom of Heaven. In Heaven with all the other children who died for Christ, such as Kyrikos, Tarsizios, Claudius, Hypatios, Dionysios and Paul were in a brotherly manner waiting for him to join them in their game, together the Cherubim and Seraphim.

The time came for Catechist Paul Van to seal, with his confession and martyrdom for Christ, all that he was teaching to the young of the Church for many years. Without the slightest groan and with prayer on his lips, he endured unheard of tortures and he surrendered his blessed soul to the hands of his Creator. Iyia Ven, a teacher at the Missionary School was repeatedly tortured inhumanely. She was bashed and mutilated and she, in the end, died while confessing, with high spirit and courage, the name of Christ. Many others suffered martyrdom with them; young and old, ordinary and important persons, educated and illiterate, people from rural and urban areas, professional and labourers. God knows their names and He has entered them in the book of life. About 400 persons, who loved Christ, distinguished themselves as martyrs and confessors and irrigated with their pure blood the ground of China and sanctified it with their supreme sacrifice. The previously 'barren and sterile' Chinese land grew its 'first fragrant flowers', which with their yellow colour enriched the beauty of the Garden of the heavenly Eden and with their freshness they refreshed Christianity which fainted from the burns of rationalism and indifference at the beginning of our century. The historic people of China offered their first sacrifice to God Sabbaoth…

11th June 1990. Wordly is the sacrifice of the Chinese New-martyrs. Worthy is the bloodstained epitrachilion of presbyter Metrophanes. Worthy is the blameless slaughter of the little boy John. Worthy is the blood of Iyia, of Paul and of all the known and unknown, but known to God by name, confessors and martyrs, the first sacrifices of China…

11th June 1995. Bent over the pages of the "Ecclesiastic Truth", the official periodical of the Church of Constantinople of the year of the Lord 1901, I became acquainted for the first time with the Holy New-martyrs of China. Their holy icon in Chino-Byzantine style already sanctifies my humble office. Through their intercessions, Christ our Lord praise the fallen tabernacle of your Church in China and save the souls of us Your servants who are lovers of he Martyrs…

from Orthodox Kypseli Publications, Thessalonica, Greece, 1999

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